Wednesday October 04, 2023

Youth – enormous opportunity or ultimate battlefield for Pakistan

February 06, 2023

Youth engagement and problem-solving are critical issues for all communities, especially since young people are the future of our society.

With the youth population now constituting 70pc of the population in Pakistan, it is essential that parents, educators, policy-makers and politicians take responsibility to ensure that young people are given the opportunity to actively participate in their communities.

This can be done by supporting youth-driven initiatives, such as youth councils and youth-led organisations. For example, Karachi’s Arts Council has recently started various activities in the city, including competitions in categories, such as Declamation, Quiz, Singing, Essay Writing, Dancing, Painting and Photography, as well as music festivals. These events have seen an impressive turnout, with over 400,000 college and university students attending the music festivals. Notably, special children were also invited to participate for the first time.

It is important to note that sections with authority need to undergo a perspective change regarding youth engagement.

This involves partnering and learning with young people to empower them to create better outcomes, and often extends beyond the traditional bounds of formal education. It can involve non-formal learning opportunities, such as internships, volunteer placements, youth groups or advocacy activities. These experiences can help young people gain valuable skills, build confidence and support their broader educational aspirations.

A great example of this concept in action is the recent initiative in Gilgit Baltistan, where students of government schools were involved in tech projects under government initiatives.

Youth engagement and problem-solving is an important issue that should not be overlooked. It is essential that we create opportunities for young people to participate in their communities and to gain the skills and confidence they need to become successful members of society.

Again this concept was realised in Gilgit Baltistan, where students of government schools in their final year were involved in tech projects under government initiatives during the Gilgit Baltistan Dream Road Show in Islamabad.

Another flagship initiative in GB was the Careers Festival 2022, a grand event dedicated to introducing the young generation to both traditional and non-traditional professions. More than 20,000 students in Grade 9, 10, 11 and 12 attended the event and met professional leaders from a variety of fields, such as science and technology, music and the arts. They were also briefed about scholarship opportunities and received comprehensive career counselling. Mohyuddin Ahmad Wani, currently serving as the Chief Secretary of GB, is the main architect behind this campaign. The GB example should be replicated in other parts of the country.

Youth engagement is a powerful tool for empowering young people to create more positive outcomes, often extending beyond the traditional boundaries of formal education. It can involve non-formal learning opportunities such as internships, volunteer placements, youth groups and advocacy activities which provide young people with meaningful experiences, impart essential civic skills and support their broader educational goals. Unfortunately, Balochistan remains largely excluded from these opportunities.

Balochistan’s youth have been neglected for too long. Students at campuses are not exposed to extracurricular activities and lack access to career counselling or advice, leaving them vulnerable to extremist propaganda and narratives. To stem violence, Balochistan’s youth must be given the opportunity to participate.

Campuses in Lahore are also on the brink of neglect and apathy. Youth festivals, recreational activities, career advice and other healthy activities are not encouraged.

To address this, the first-ever Grand Festival, which includes art and literature, will take place from February 8-12, with thousands of students and youth attending, as well as representatives from the media, civil society, entertainment and other sectors.

Youth can no longer be ignored, especially those from Urdu medium and Madrasa institutions. With more than 2.5 million students attending Madrasa, it is clear that they need more than just religious education; they need real-life skills and coaching. Jamia-Tur-Rasheed in Karachi has stepped up to the challenge, providing a hybrid education system that combines modern education with religious teachings. This system was made possible by renowned scholar Mufti Abdur Raheem. By providing Madrasa students with the opportunity to gain real-world skills, Jamia-Tur-Rasheed is helping to bridge the gap between traditional and modern education.

Youth represent the ultimate opportunity for Pakistan to thrive and grow. They are the future of the nation, and their potential is limitless. However, the youth of Pakistan are also facing a number of challenges that threaten to derail their progress. From poverty and lack of education to political instability and religious extremism and above all unemployment, the youth of Pakistan are facing an uphill battle.

Despite these obstacles, the youth have the potential to be a powerful force for positive change. With the right support and guidance, they can become the driving force behind a more prosperous and secure future for this country. By investing in the youth, the nation can unlock its true potential and create a brighter future for all.

Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a Balochistan politician and a former media and strategic communications advisor to GOB. He tweets @jan_Achakzai